As I was doing my research on Will Rogers to write Will Rogers Revived, I found it interesting that he spoke about Universal Basic Income in one of his columns. Of course, he didn’t refer to it as such at the time, and his version did require a modicum of work, but just as he spoke about trickle-down economics before people were calling it that, he also discussed ensuring people have a living wage to not go hungry. Of course, people have been throwing the idea out for quite awhile.
Although they didn’t call it “Universal Basic Income” either, English radical Thomas Spence, French revolutionary Marquis de Condorcet, and American founding father Thomas Paine all proposed the idea in the 18th century. In addition to Will, it has been mentioned a number of times since, perhaps most surprisingly by US President Richard Nixon, and the new generation of billionaires like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg, as well as a number of other Silicon Valley executives, support the idea as well. Countries like Canada, Finland, Scotland, Germany, and India are discussing its possibility to support the livelihood of citizens, and many of them already have experiments underway to test its feasibility.
The next few paragraphs are from the Will Rogers Revived show. I built on his actual words, but I added in a few of my own to bring his ideas into the modern world and to make for a better flow. I’ll put my words in italics for you.
We shouldn’t be giving people money, and them not do anything for it. They’re not banks, after all. No matter what you have to hand out for necessities, the receiver should give some kind of work in return. Cuz he has to eat just the same when he is laying off as when he’s working. So every city or every state should give work of some kind at a living wage so that no one would be in actual want. And seeing as so many people have come to making money from doing absolutely nothing of service with their time, and you folks are building robots to take care of a lot of the other jobs, I don’t think we need to demand forty hours for folks to get by, but just whatever they can do to feel purposeful, involved, and of service.
Of course, it may seem to cost the taxpayers more money. But if you’re making it while your fellow man isn’t, why, you shouldn’t mind paying a good slice of it for the less fortunate to keep society as a nice place to live.
Of course the big man’s argument, and all the heavy taxpayers, is that when you take too big a slice from a man in taxes, it takes that much more out of his Investments, and might cut down on money being put into enterprises. But it didn’t work that way after the war, and during it, why, income taxes run as high as 70% on every dollar earned, and yet there was more money being made and put into things than there is now. Now that we got that settled, all we have to do is get the Republicans behind it. It might not be the best plan, but it will damn sure beat the ones we got now.
Now, I’m not sure if Will would actually say the italicized words, but based on his ideas of banking as one of the most non-essential industries in the country, finance as a game, and Republicans as the managers of it all, I think he’d at least agree with my choice of words. I’m not sure what he would make of robots taking our jobs.